Commercial Real Estate, Clutch Report

6 Challenges of Coworking Spaces

March 4, 2020

by Kristen Herhold

Senior Content Developer & Marketer, Clutch

The top 6 challenges of coworking spaces are distractions and noise, lack of privacy, limited space, insufficient equipment, inability to personalize space, and security and safety issues.

Employees enjoy working in a coworking space — 77% of coworking employees are satisfied with their shared office space, according to a recent Clutch report.

Just because people are happy in a coworking space does not mean they don’t experience challenges working in one, though.

Clutch surveyed 500 coworking employees across the U.S. to learn exactly what challenges they face in their coworking space.

We found that nearly all people who work in a coworking space (88%) experience challenges such as distractions, lack of space, and security issues.

We also found that just one-third of coworking employees (33%) would prefer to work in their coworking space, less than the number who prefer to work remotely (39%) but more than the number who would prefer to work in a traditional office (28%).

Which Working Environment Would Coworking Employees Prefer?

Businesses that overcome the top challenges of coworking spaces can make employees happier and more likely to want to work in a shared office space, rather than remotely.

There are more than 20,000 coworking spaces in the world. If businesses can’t overcome the challenges of their specific coworking space, they may consider finding another coworking office that better suits to their needs.

Top 6 Challenges of Coworking Spaces

Top 6 Challenges of Coworking Spaces

  1. Distractions and noise (48%)
  2. Lack of privacy (48%)
  3. Limited space (39%)
  4. Insufficient equipment (31%)
  5. Inability to personalize workspace (31%)
  6. Security/safety issues (23%)

1. Distractions and Noise

More than half of high-performing employees say they need quiet workspaces to succeed. Coworking spaces, though, aren’t always conducive to a quiet environment.

Nearly half of coworking employees (48%) say distractions and noise are a challenge in their coworking space.

48% of employees say distractions and noise are challenges of their coworking space.

In an open space coworking environment, for example, there will likely be constant noise, whether it’s from conversations, phone calls, or even loud keyboard typing. In these cases, employees who are most productive in a quiet atmosphere may struggle to focus, experience lower productivity, or produce lower quality of work.

Restricting noise in an open coworking space is challenging, but businesses can reduce distractions by investing in noise-canceling headphones or finding a coworking office that offers quiet spaces.

2. Lack of Privacy

Employees value privacy at work, even if they work at a company that requires collaboration.

Close to half of coworking employees (48%) see privacy as a challenge in their coworking space.

48% of employees say the lack of privacy is a top challenge of coworking spaces

According to a 2019 Fast Company article, there are four reasons why privacy is important at work:

  1. Helps ideas gain traction: People tend to discuss ideas with one or two colleagues before proposing it to a large group. They need privacy for these discussions.
  2. Fosters creativity: Creativity requires private moments to reflect or to brainstorm in small groups.
  3. Encourages focus: People can think, reflect, and concentrate better with some privacy.
  4. Increases employee engagement: Employees tend to be more engaged when their office offers a balance between private workspaces and louder, more collaborative ones.

Employees need some privacy to succeed, even if the majority of their work is with a team. For example, if employees don’t have privacy, companies can add privacy screens between desks.

3. Limited Space

Employees value their personal space over any other place at their office: An office with limited space can hinder employee satisfaction and productivity.

Thirty-nine percent (39%) of coworking employees say limited space is a challenge of working in a shared office space.

39% of employees say limited space in coworking spaces is a challenge

For example, an employee who makes calls frequently as part of his job may be unable to do so at his desk if others in his space are socializing or also making calls.

He may try to find other space in the coworking office to make a call but may have trouble if the space is too small. Not only is this frustrating for the employee, but it also appears unprofessional to the person on the other end of the call if there is too much background noise.

Businesses that work in a coworking space must find an office that has enough space for employees to do their job successfully.

4. Insufficient Equipment

A coworking space may follow the latest office trends — free coffee, game room, snacks, etc. — but if it doesn’t have the right equipment for workers, it may struggle to retain tenants.

Almost one-third of coworking employees (31%) say their coworking space has insufficient equipment.

31% of employees say insufficient equipment in coworking spaces is a challenge

An employee who uses a coworking space to work remotely relies on fast internet to communicate with his coworkers. He may choose a different type of workspace if he encounters slow Wi-Fi every day at work.

Someone who uses multiple monitors, a lamp, and a phone will need multiple outlets nearby. If she can’t plug in her electronics as needed, she can’t do her job to the best of her ability.

A worker with back problems will need a comfortable chair to work in, while others might benefit from sit-stand desks.

Businesses need to invest in the right equipment for their business — even if their coworking space doesn’t. The solution could be something as simple as buying extension cords or offering employees different equipment than what the coworking space provides.

Equipment that fosters productivity and meets employee needs is essential to any office space.

The solution may cost a business money — but investing in employees is money well spent.

5. Inability to Personalize Workspace

Nearly all employees (98%) at a traditional office have an assigned space at work. Coworking spaces, like traditional office spaces, need to give employees an assigned spot to make their “own.”

The fifth biggest challenge of coworking spaces is the lack of ability to personalize workspaces (31%).

31% of employees say the inability to personalize their workspace is a challenge of coworking spaces.

For example, an employee who works at the same spot every day can add personal touches to his desk, such as pictures, cards, and memorabilia. He wouldn’t be able to personalize his workspace if he was at a different desk every day or if a coworking space doesn’t allow tenants to personalize their desks.

Giving employees the ability to personalize their own space can help them feel more at “home” while at work.

6. Security and Safety Issues

In a traditional office space, equipment and ideas tend to remain secure:

  • Employees can discuss projects openly without fear of another company stealing an idea
  • People can feel safe using a company-only Wi-Fi, where other workers and companies can’t hack easily into their systems
  • Employees can leave their equipment overnight in a locked office space 

Not every employee feels safe at their coworking space, though.

Nearly one-quarter of coworking employees (23%) say they face security/safety issues at their office space.

23% of employees say security and safety concerns are challenges of coworking spaces

A shared Wi-Fi connection with other companies can increase the chances of hacking or data breaches. A conversation of new ideas may be overheard — and stolen by a competitor. Computers left overnight in the shared office space may be stolen.

Security issues at coworking spaces aren’t just with technology, though. Many coworking spaces are open 24/7, which can affect the physical security of workers there during off-work hours.

Some coworking spaces have an alarm system and video surveillance to increase security, but many employees still worry about their personal and professional safety at their coworking space.

Businesses Shouldn’t Avoid Coworking Spaces, Despite Challenges

Nearly all employees face challenges in their coworking space. Still, one-third would prefer to work in a coworking space over another type of workspace.

The top challenges of coworking spaces are distractions/noise, lack of privacy, limited space, insufficient equipment, and inability to personalize their workspace. One-quarter of employees say they face safety and security issues at their coworking space as well.

Businesses should address these challenges to make employees feel happier, safer, and more productive at work.

There are more than 20,000 coworking spaces in the world — if a business can’t overcome challenges in its current coworking space, it can find one that meets its needs.

About The Survey

Clutch surveyed 501 people who have worked in a coworking space in the past 12 months.

Half of the respondents work in an urban area (49%); 35% work in a suburban area; and 17% work in a rural area.

Sixty-one percent (62%) of respondents are female, and 38% are male.

Respondents are from the South (39%), Northeast (22%), West (21%), and Midwest (19%).

Respondents are 18-24 (13%); 25-34 (43%); 35-44 (28%); 45-54 (12%); 55-64 (4%); and 65 and older (1%).

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